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It's a family affair! How parents, kids and grandparents are choosing to all live together to beat high house prices

  • Families are transforming basements, attics and garages to live altogether
  • Multi-generational living is seen as a way to pool resources
  • Families can benefit from the property wealth built up by the older generation 

Across the country, families are calling in the builders to transform their basements, attics, spaces above the garage or slices of garden into self-contained homes. Why? 

Because in our challenging housing market, multi-generational ­living is becoming increasingly popular. 

House prices are an estimated 7.6 times the average annual salary — more than double what they were 20 years ago — so would-be first-time buyers are being forced to rent, with no prospect of being able to afford a place of their own any time soon. 

There is an estimated demand for some 125,000 multi-generational homes per year in Britain

There is an estimated demand for some 125,000 multi-generational homes per year in Britain

Declining sales (currently at the ­lowest level since October 2016), ­concern over the economy and uncertainty over Brexit have led older people to believe that now is too risky a time ­­to move house. Multi-­generational living offers a third ­­way.

John Dier found that selling his large, Grade II-listed house and building a Scandi-style log cabin in the garden of his daughter Yvette’s house outside Stroud in Gloucestershire, solved his downsizing problem. 

‘Commuting every day to Bristol was getting too much for me,’ says John, 63, a chef. ‘But I was still paying a mortgage and I found that doing the traditional thing — buying a bungalow — wouldn’t be much of a ­saving by the time I had paid for the move.’

John’s granny annexe by Norwegian Log, which he shares with his partner Pearl, 79, has an open-plan kitchen/­living room, an orange Everhot cooker, two bedrooms and a dressing room. In all, it cost about £130,000, which left him a considerable nest-egg­.

‘I now have a part-time job in a garden centre, which I enjoy,’ he says. ‘It means we can pick up the grandchildren from school and help them with their homework until their ­parents come home, which suits everyone.’

Oxfordshire: Joined via the conservatory to this fivebedroom, end terrace Cotswold stone house in Burford, is a cosy one bedroom cottage. Humberts, £750,000

Oxfordshire: Joined via the conservatory to this fivebedroom, end terrace Cotswold stone house in Burford, is a cosy one bedroom cottage. Humberts, £750,000

There is an estimated demand for some 125,000 multi-generational homes per year in Britain, according to a report this­­ summer from the National House Building Council (NHBC). 

That means good business for companies such as Bristol Architectural ­Services which specialise in converting spare spaces into living accommodation. 

Devon: Five-bed Ash Grove in Bittaford, on the foothills of Dartmoor, was built in 2003 with a single bedroom annexe, with its own front door. Marchandpetit.co.uk, £615,000

Devon: Five-bed Ash Grove in Bittaford, on the foothills of Dartmoor, was built in 2003 with a single bedroom annexe, with its own front door. Marchandpetit.co.uk, £615,000

‘Demand for annexes has trebled in the past two years,’ says managing ­director, Simon Thomas. ‘It makes sense because an apartment above a garage or loft conversion will always increase the value of a house by at least the amount you spend on it.’ 

The cost of such work ­varies alarmingly, according to Thomas.

In London and the Home Counties, a ­typical conversion will cost £35,000, whereas the same job will be 20 per cent less in Wales or the north, where labour is cheaper. 

But there’s more to multi-generational living than saving money. It’s a way of life on the continent and many believe it has health ­­benefits. 

East Sussex: You could accommodate a pair of boomerang children in the annexe of this four-bedroom Victorian house in Broad Oak. Phillipsandstubbs.co.uk, £795,000

East Sussex: You could accommodate a pair of boomerang children in the annexe of this four-bedroom Victorian house in Broad Oak. Phillipsandstubbs.co.uk, £795,000

When successful businessman Keith Palmer retired in 1994, he bought Lapworth Farm in ­Warwickshire and turned the dairy into an annexe for his parents, who were then 87 and 82. 

‘Although my mother died in her 80s, Dad lived to be 102 and he put his longevity down to the fact he lived so close to the family,’ says Mr Palmer, 73, who is selling the house through Knight Frank, priced £2million.

 ‘We’d keep an eye on him, which gave him peace of mind, and the children helped keep him young,’ says Mr Palmer. Terence Stubbs converted the loft at his home – Biddlecombe House, Chudleigh, Devon – into a stylish flat and enjoyed having his granddaughter, Emily, then in her 20s, ­living there for five years. 

‘She had her own front door, bedroom, kitchen and bathroom, which gave her independence,’ says Terence, 71, a retired ­publisher, who is selling the house with Strutt & Parker for £925,000.

‘It was an absolute joy – we’d known her as a child and as a teenager and this gave us the chance to enjoy her company as an adult.’ 

On the face of it, multi-generational living sounds like a practical solution. But it has its pitfalls, ­including the possibility of falling out with your ­nearest and dearest. If the older generation owns the property, there is a risk that the younger ones will feel like guests. 

And, what happens if the owners want to sell or if they die and other family members inherit a share of the house? Families’ needs may also change over the years. A compact apartment, ideal for a couple, will be ­claustrophobic if a baby comes along. 

‘It’s not a decision to be taken lightly,’ says John Dier. ‘My advice would be to carefully re-examine your relationship with ­family members. It has worked brilliantly for us but it’s not for everyone.’

Tags Property

ABOUT THE AUTHOR celebrityrave

Journalist, writer and broadcaster, based in London and Paris, her latest book is Touché: A French Woman's Take on the English. Read more articles from Agnes.

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